Dr Colin Beale

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2012 -  Lecturer  Department of Biology, University of York 
2009 -2011  Fellow  University of Aberdeen 
2006 - 2009  Post-doc   Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen 
2005 Post-doc  Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Edinburgh
2004 PhD Glasgow University
1999 BSc Imperial College



I work on a wide range of ecological problems from population dynamics and distributions to fire ecology in the African savannah. The main linking thread of my research is a fundamental interest in spatial processes in ecology, from the way individual animals move across a landscape, through the patterns and processes that shape individual species distributions, to global patterns in biodiversity. I'm interested in understanding all aspects of spatial variation in ecological processes at a range of spatial scales, using and developing appropriate statistical techniques alongside an active programme of field research in the UK and Africa. Currently, many species distributions are shifting as a consequence of global climate change and I'm also interested in the demographic processes that drive such shifts. Much of my work focusses on birds and I collaborate with conservation organisations to ensure that a variety of additional interests tackle problems of practical significance.


  • Serengeti Fire Project.  Funded by The Levehulme Trust 

  • Analysing illegal activities in protected areas. Funded by and jointly with Wildlife Conservation Society.

  • Distribution changes in UK flora and fauna. Funded by and jointly with Natural England, British Trust for Ornithology, etc.
  • SAVBIRD – Understanding the processes shapring savanna bird communitiesFunding body: EU

Research group(s)

Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr Rob Critchlow

Illegal Activities in Africa / Resoring Tanzania's degraded Savannahs

PhD Student Alfan Rija

Illegal Activities in Tanzania's Protected Areas

PhD Student Chris Wheatley

Climate Change Risk Assessments

PhD Student Jacob Davies

Demographic drivers of distribution change in the Reed Warbler.

Available PhD research projects

Modelling the abundance - distribution relationships (2015-16)

As global change impacts species a pressing question is how distribution shifts translate to abundance changes, yet complexities in the relationship between abundance and distribution make this difficult. Some species show abundance peaks at the range centre and a gradual decline towards the edge, others are abundant right up to their distribution limits. If we can understand these fundamental differences we should be able to make more accurate projections of the impacts of global change on abundance on biodiversity. Although we currently lack an understanding of these fundamental patterns, preliminary models suggest that a mechanistic approach linking birth and death rates to environmental variables can explain many of the observed patterns.

In this PhD you will use data on bird abundance and distribution in a variety of countries from UK to Tanzania to undertake statistical and theoretical models of abundance and distribution relationships at a range of spatial scales. This project will involve training in advanced Bayesian, spatially-explicit modelling methods, joining a team of graduates students and researcher at York that leads the field of spatial ecology and has a strong focus on conservation biology.

This opportunity is only available as a self-funded project and will appeal to numerate biologists.



Contact details

Dr Colin Beale
Department of Biology
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328615